UZA notes with concern the recently gazetted unrealistically high fees on candidate nominations, voters roll inspection and election observation. According to statutory instrument 144 of 2022 which amended SI 153 of 2014, ZEC has announced that for a political party to field a presidential candidate, it now costs US$20,000 up from US$1,000. For members of parliament the fee which was US$50 is now US$1,000.
This is a dark period for democracy in Zimbabwe as this development creates fertile ground for a disputed electoral process and taints the credibility of the elections body. With the imposition of these fees, the elections will be reserved only for elite political parties who have state funds at their disposal. Besides disadvantaging prospective political candidates, and the youth in particular, the fees will also increase voter apathy especially among women, the youth, people living with disability and the elderly. The new fees gazetted by ZEC are designed to disenfranchise our young people, the elderly, the poor as well as the independent candidates. The fees are segregatory and they will shut out the majority of voters who would want to inspect and access the voters roll.
Our party, the United Zimbabwe Alliance is appalled that ZEC has gazetted such fees at a time when citizens are already struggling to make ends meet. It is equally sad that ZEC is pegging these fees in United States dollars at a time when high ranking government officials were quoted verbatim claiming that our local currency is the strongest in the region. ZEC is a Constitutional body whose mandate should be to uphold Constitutional provisions including provisions of the Electoral Act which guarantee all political players and citizens the right to participate freely in the country’s democratic processes. What justification does ZEC have for such exorbitant fee increases? Democracy should be inclusive and should be for everyone and not a privileged few.
The functions of ZEC must ensure that citizens have access to the voters’ roll and all the relevant material that support and aid a transparent, free and fair election. Section 1: 3 (d) (ii) of the Electoral Act which speaks to constitutional provisions, guarantees every political actor the right to reasonable access to all material and information necessary for him or her to participate effectively in the election process.
The Act also states that citizens and political players have a right to inspect and access copies of the voters roll. Every voters roll and every consolidated roll referred to in Section 20 (4a) shall be a public document and open to inspection by the public free of charge during ordinary office hours at the office of the Commission or the registration office where it is kept. The Act also guarantees citizens that the fees prescribed for the purposes of sub-section 3 or 4 shall not exceed the reasonable cost of providing the voters roll concerned.
UZA is calling on ZEC to review these fees downwards and make democracy accessible and inclusive. The rights of the citizens to participate as votes and/or candidates must not be limited or alienated in any way. Every Zimbabwean has a right to participate in elections as guaranteed in the country’s supreme law, the Constitution.